Clean eating is the perfect way to fuel your body with nutrient-rich, healthy food. Here is a simple guide to making better choices.
What is clean eating?
Everyone seems to have a different definition of what actually constitutes ‘clean’. You’ve got your bodybuilder definition, your paleo definition, your vegan definition, your celebrity, doctor definition and on and on and on.
But those definitions can vary wildly from individual to individual.
What follows is our definition of clean eating. We don’t claim that it’s the ‘right’ definition; these are simply the personal guidelines we use to stay lean and healthy.
As always, check it with your doctor before you make any changes to your diet.
Let’s go over some things Clean Eating isn’t:
- it’s not a diet,
- it’s not calorie-restriction,
- it’s not about meal frequency
- it’s not about depriving yourself of things you love
- it isn’t about perfection.
Clean eating isn’t a short-term fix, it’s more of a lifestyle change. If you want to be successful with eating clean, you’ve got to view it as redefining the relationship you have to food.
Rather than trying to change everything all at once, focusing on trying to improve your eating habits over time.
Eating clean doesn’t mean not eating. You eat as much food as you need (i.e fulfil your metabolic requirements) to be healthy and have the energy to fuel your daily life, workouts and any other activities
People often relate clean eating with sacrifice, but it’s actually about finding healthy alternatives to unhealthy food.
So if you love cakes, you don’t need to give them up, the challenge is to find a healthy cake recipe (or healthy alternative). Sure it takes a little more work, but the results are certainly worth it.
The key to clean eating is aiming to eat healthy most of the time, and still being flexible and sensible about it.
Clean Eating does not have a “one-size-fits-all” definition, but these are our recommendations.
What to eat
Protein is essential for our bodies to function, especially if you are exercising. At least 3-5 serves of protein.
Examples of clean healthy protein: Chicken and turkey breast (not the processed kind from the smallgoods counter), tofu, legumes (chickpeas, lentils, baked beans, broad beans) fish, lean red meat (beef, lamb, kangaroo, pork – fat removed).
Use meat from grass-fed animals as grain fed ones have much higher levels of saturated and trans fats. Grass-fed has a higher level of omega 3 fats. Bonus!
Fats & Oils
Healthy fats don’t make you fat, they are good for you and help you burn body fat stores. Yes, even some healthy saturated fats (i.e. from a high-quality source like avocado and coconut oil).
You can get healthy fats from, for example, fish (e.g. salmon, tuna and sardines etc), nuts and seeds (e.g. walnuts, almonds, chia seeds), avocados, eggs, oils (olive oil, coconut oil).
Aim for about 2 tablespoons a day of healthy fats. Remember: avoid cooking with olive oil – use it raw, but cook with coconut oil due to its greater stability at high heats.
Seeds & Grains
We love to recommend Quinoa. It is an ancient seed, packed with nutrients and offers many benefits for the body.
The seeds are quite versatile, quinoa can be used as a substitute for other whole grains in recipes or used in place of rice or couscous, it can even be used to make bread.
If you want to eat grains, Quinoa or a small amount of brown rice are the best options.
Vegetables & Fruits
We highly recommend vegetables at every meal, where possible. Raw where possible to get as much of the micronutrients. You can eat as many vegetables, leafy green or bright coloured that you want, raw or steamed.
BUT vegetables to limit if you are being weight-conscious are sweet potato, pumpkin and potato. The best way to cook these vegetables is steamed or baked, with skin on.
Fresh fruit is a great snack and nutritious alternative to sweet treats or refined sugars. 2 pieces of fruit, especially the berry fruits, a day is recommended, add them to smoothies, fresh juicing or salads!
But you can eat too much; it can lead to problems with the hormones which regulate blood sugar.
Cold & Hot Drinks
WATER WATER WATER (and Clean Tea!)
You can have your water with fresh lemon/ lime/ mint/ grapefruit in it, but at least 2 Litres a day. It is essential to flush your body of the toxins you during your detox, and for general wellbeing.
Enjoy your coffee and black tea is in moderation but with no added sugar or sweeteners. Try it with soy, rice or almond milk.
We recommend twice a week drinking at least a litre of detox water. This is easy and cheap to make and super good for your digestion, liver and hydration. Just slice half a lemon and half a cucumber and add to a jug of water and leave to soak for 1 hour or overnight if possible. And drink!
You can also add ginger slices or mint if you want added benefits. When consuming lots of water, we recommend filtering out the chlorine and fluoride.
We do recommend fresh juicing of vegetables and fruit. Once a day if possible but once a week has benefits too. Try carrot, apple, ginger, beetroot and lemon as a detox or add Kale for more benefits. Fresh juicing is so incredibly good for you.
We recommend a daily multivitamin/ mineral supplement to ensure you are getting optimal vitamins and essential minerals.
We also recommend a daily fish oil tablet. Fish oil has amazing results for your wellbeing, as well as weight loss. If vegetarian/ vegan, you can substitute this with a shot of flaxseed oil (10 ml) twice a day or chia seeds daily.
Foods to Avoid
These are usually high in chemical additives, trans fats, salts and refined sugars and calories!
Refined flour (found in breads, pastry, and pasta), starchy grains like white rice, sugars (high-fructose, white, brown etc), trans-fats etc.
If you are interested in cutting down body fat, of special importance is to cut down refined sugars, incl sugars and which due to their effect on insulin levels and hormone-sensitive lipase, aids in fat loss.
This is a hot topic, some people agree dairy is not part of the clean eating programme, some don’t. But personally, I overcome a lot of health issues the day I gave up dairy.
It is a personal choice but we highly recommend it. You will likely see many benefits to your digestive tract if you trade cow’s milk dairy to soy or almond milk alternatives.
You will get your calcium requirements from the nutritious fresh food you will be eating. There are a lot of calcium enriched foods that are not dairy; such as broccoli, almonds, spinach, bok choy, kale, sesame seeds, flaxseeds and chia seeds.
Artificial ingredients and preservatives:
As the saying goes: if you can’t pronounce it, don’t eat it. This includes artificial sweeteners and anything with a number!
Studies have repeatedly shown that artificial sweeteners, like aspartame, cause greater weight gain than regular sugar and can also increase hunger.
Stevia is the number one choice – completely safe in its natural form and can be used to sweeten most dishes and drinks.
Is a toxin… It’s also an excellent drink on social occasions, so if you’re going to drink, make sure you keep it in moderation, and we recommend a simple low-calorie, cleaner option like Vodka with fresh lime and soda.
Soft drink and fruit juice:
Don’t drink your calories: soft drinks are loaded with sugar, diet soft drink is loaded with artificial sweeteners and fruit juice is also often loaded with refined sugar and fructose.
It’s not about perfection, but the more you can cut out the above factors, the healthier you’ll be. Whatever eating habits you choose to make, you need to make it about you.
You need to tailor your diet to your own food sensitivities and intolerances and your personal preferences.
For example: if you are gluten and lactose/cows milk intolerant, then clean eating, for you would mean that you would have to avoid wheat, barley, rye, oats, kamut, spelt and dairy products.
Speak to your doctor or healthcare professional to ensure you meet your dietary requirements each day before you make changes to your diet. There are delicious/nutritious alternatives you can use.
Eating to lose weight, maintain your weight, or gain weight (in the form of lean muscle, hopefully!) have different calorie requirements.
The basic principles of weight loss are burning more calories than you eat or drink. There is no magic pill (or tea), it’s just energy in/energy out – basic science.
There are so many fantastic websites and Facebook for recipes. Be creative, try new things!
Enjoy your relationship with food!
We hope you enjoy the benefits of eating clean, we know your body will thank you for it!
Jordana Edwards and Amanda Hunter ND